Posts Tagged ‘CDC food borne illness’

Serving Fresh Salsa or Guacamole? Better Make Sure You’re Not Serving E Coli On the Side!

August 7, 2010

If you serve guacamole or salsa in your restaurant, the Centers for Disease Control want you to be extra careful when preparing the vegetables in question. It turns out that improperly prepared Mexican dips are responsible for 1 out of every 25 food borne illness reports from restaurants. In fact, between 1998 and 2008, a study by the CDC found, some 3.9 percent of food borne illnesses were caused by the dips. This compares poorly to a previous study, done from 1984 through 1997 which found just 1.5 percent of food borne illnesses were caused by the same foods.

The report dealt primarily with fresh salsa and guacamole, especially the ones served by restaurants all over the country which prepare their own. The specific ingredients implicated in E Coli outbreaks have included such raw vegetables as hot peppers, tomatoes and cilantro.

It wasn’t always this way however. Prior to 1984, there was not a single reported outbreak of food borne illness related to Mexican dipping foods, perhaps because they were less popular back then.

The reason for the problems has to do with poor storage of the vegetables in question. The CDC found that they were often stored at room temperature, a level which allows diseases to breed more easily thus leading to increasing numbers of outbreaks. In twenty percent of such infections, the problem was workers who were themselves infected previously and who passed along the infection when preparing the foods in question.

The CDC says that all vegetables used in the preparation of salsa and guacamole should be kept refrigerated to minimize the chance of outbreaks and that the batches should ideally be done in smaller amounts so that they will not affect large numbers of diners in case an outbreak does manage to get through.

In essence, the CDC says that fresh salsa and guacamole should be quite safe as long as it is prepared and stored in accordance with proper food handling procedures, something that not all restaurants have been known to do.